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M30 Transmission problems

lvl1pro

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Hi everyone, I read that some M30 transmissions(4spd auto) hit problems around 170,000k's. I just wanted to know if this is in fact true and if it is, what are some things I should look out for to know when it is on the way out? Also I believe this transmission has been used in previous commodores for a while, not sure though if they had made any improvements when they put it into the VE (unlikely), so it should increase the likelihood of people having hit the 170,000k mark in previous series. Thanks :)
 
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greenacc

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You will get problems if it hasn't been serviced a couple of times in its life or if it has been tharshed. Mine is getting close to 200k's and its as smooth as a new one.
Yes the 4 speed auto has been used in commodores since the early 90's so it's not brand new technology or super high tec, but its very reliable, hard to break and cheap to maintain and still has a dipstick!! The 5 and six speed crap has no dipstick which makes them a pain in the ass.
If you are doing a service yourself The service kit for your 4 speed costs about $25 from supercheap, then get some good fluid Dexron6 or equivalent and job done. Do that every 40,000 ks and the box will last for ages.
 

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Service, service and service - that's the secret to longevity. Regardless of what Holden may advise, the Auto Transmission should be serviced regularly. Perhaps as often as 50,000km or more frequently if towing or other 'extreme conditions'. An external Transmission Oil Cooler is one of the best investments that you can make. Make sure that is installed in conjunction with the factory unit. (Helps to maintain suitable engine temperature especially at cold start. They are cheap and simple to install. Excessive temperature(s) are a sure fire way of killing an Auto Transmission (prematurely).

The following is a bit 'long winded' but worth a read if you are really serious about extending the life of your Automatic Transmission:

'Many people are often concerned and confused at the conflicting information they receive in regard to the fitting of after-market transmission oil coolers to their vehicles. Very often dealers will say NO simply because it may be in conflict to the design of the vehicle they are selling. Many - probably most new vehicles with automatic transmission have coolers fitted. They are often found to be totally inadequate when towing for sustained periods, substantial weights and often hard conditions. I am not aware of an 4 wheel drives or passenger vehicles designed for towing. The majority of such vehicles are capable of towing but it will always be a compromise between ability and limitations.

Here's some 'food for thought'......

As for the need to fit an Automatic Transmission oil cooler. I suggest that you install a temperature gauge into the transmission line before it enters the radiator (standard transmission cooler). Once you get an idea of the temperatures involved (it can rise between 30 - 50 degrees centigrade) with towing you will never again tow without one installed. They are relatively cheap as compared with the cost of a re-built transmission. I suggest that you take little notice of the person on the Holden Service Department and their opinion that the vehicle does not require additional cooling. Ask the Police Departments why they insist upon additional coolers on all of their automatic vehicles. Ask Holden why it fits and external cooler to the Adventra. They probably won't know but it is to allow for greater cooling during 'extreme' off-road driving etc. Towing is considered as 'extreme driving conditions'. Apart from truck prime movers and large agricultural tractors no vehicles are actually designed for towing. Vehicles commonly used for towing caravans etc are always a compromise between cost and capability and often require modification(s) to enable safe and successful towing.

Have a read of the following for some ideas:

Heat is Your Transmissions Greatest Enemy

Overheating is responsible for the majority of automatic transmission failures. Normal temperatures run about the same as the engine coolant temperature which is regulated by the thermostat to around 90 degrees C.

This brings up a very important point. A well maintained cooling system can extend the transmissions life. Part or all of the transmissions oil cooling function, depending on your vehicle, is built into the vehicles radiator. If the vehicle has an external auxiliary transmission cooler, outside of and usually in front of the radiator, it can help keep the transmission oil and engine coolant cooler. You should always install an additional cooler in-line with the standard cooler as the engine relies on temperature generated by the transmission to assist with raising the operating temperatures for optimum operations.

As the temperature of the transmission fluid increases, the life of the fluid deceases very rapidly:

?90 degree C. allows the fluid to be run for up to 80,000 kilometres before servicing is required
?100 degree C. causes the fluid life to be cut in half to 40,000 kilometres
?113 degree C. causes the fluid life to be cut in half again to 20,000 kilometres
?123 degree C. causes the fluid life to be cut in half again to 10,000 kilometres

Based on these temperatures you can see that one overheat condition of the cooling system or the transmission is cause for immediate replacement of the transmission fluid. (Many Police Departments insist that after a high speed chase, obviously involving Police vehicle(s), that the transmission fluid and brake fluid are completely drained and flushed owing to the extreme temperatures generated and potential for severe damage to components).

Towing Increases the Temperature

Light to moderate load towing will try to increase the transmissions temperature but the cooler would control it under most conditions. If the outside temperature is too high, you are towing in mountainous areas or any of the three following are happening your transmission is at risk:

?Towing in overdrive when it is not recommended for your transmission will cause excess heat and probable failure of the overdrive components in the transmission.

?The extra weight of towing puts additional load on the engine and transmission which will increase the operating temperature of both. If the cooler can’t handle this extra heat the transmission fluid life is reduced as stated above.

?Towing a load over the rating of the tow vehicle, besides being unsafe, will also drive temperatures too high.
Add Extra Cooling if Towing

Installation of an auxiliary oil cooler can protect against excess heat causing premature transmission failure. Dropping the fluid temperature by 20 degrees F. will potentially double the life of the fluid. Most external coolers will drop the fluid temperature by 20 to 30 degrees F.

Service it Regularly

Have a thorough read of your Owners Manual. Most (probably all) manufacturers recommend servicing of both vehicle and transmission at more frequent intervals if the vehicle is driven in harsh (dirty/dusty/rural) conditions including towing.

Most repair shops recommend servicing your automatic transmission around 50,000 to 80,000 kilometres for normal driving conditions which exclude towing or extreme hot, cold or dusty conditions.

Prices for a complete filter and fluid replacement normally run around $120 to $180. If you are just getting a fluid flush the price runs in the $80 to $100 range.

Some transmission repair shops do not perform flushes. They believe the best method is regular removal of the oil and filter by removing the pan on the bottom of the transmission (good advice). You should also be aware that some manufacturers, like Honda, have clearly stated not to flush their transmissions in one of their factory bulletins.

As described above the breakdown of the fluid due to heat causes it to not protect the internal moving parts of the transmission. This will greatly shorten the life of your transmission. Overhaul or major repairs run in the area of $1600 to $8000 depending on the extent of internal damage and the type of transmission.'
 

lvl1pro

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Thank Benboy and greenacc, but the problem as this was an ex-fleet car with a tow-ball installed I am not sure how much towing was done and whether they had replaced the transmission fluid frequently. As Benboy said towing can dramatically reduce the lifespan of the transmission fluid so even though it has a full log book service history(with Holden service center) that might still not be a satisfactory as it would require more regular servicing on the transmission fluid unless Holden check the transmission fluid on each service and replace accordingly? But the car isn't being thrashed/towing now and is still being log booked serviced so I don't really see the need to fit a transmission oil cooler at this point in time but it is always good to know the limitations of parts in your car and I shall keep it mind for future cars. Also I called Holden and they said it would cost around $3000 to replace the transmission if it was indeed faulty but this was only a general quote.
 

Ian Johnston

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If you are worried, find a decent trans shop, and get it serviced, and checked out. A rebuild will cost between $1200, and $2000 depending on what needs to be done if its faulty, or if you want if beefed up.
 

lvl1pro

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If you are worried, find a decent trans shop, and get it serviced, and checked out. A rebuild will cost between $1200, and $2000 depending on what needs to be done if its faulty, or if you want if beefed up.
What would you recommend as a decent trans shop? and do you think Holden service center should be alright? Sorry a bit of a newbie when it comes to transmissions have not really had any issues with it up until now.
 

Ian Johnston

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I have no idea in Perth, but plenty of WA boys on here. I would keep away from Holden though. A transmission specialist would be the way to go.
Benboy has good experience with dealing with Holden, then going to a "real" trans guy to get his problems sorted.:smoking:
 

Ian Johnston

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I have no idea in Perth, but plenty of WA boys on here. I would keep away from Holden though. A transmission specialist would be the way to go.
Benboy has good experience with dealing with Holden, then going to a "real" trans guy to get his problems sorted.:smoking:
 

mydato

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You are over thinking all this. The 4L60E will take punishment. My last one started slipping at 260000K. Just get the thing serviced at any trans shop and get on with ya life. They are simple to rebuild and rebuild kit assuming no hardware needs replacing is about $300. As they were used in every commodore model since VN you can find plenty of swap over second hand or reco's units for bugger all money.
 

lvl1pro

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You are over thinking all this. The 4L60E will take punishment. My last one started slipping at 260000K. Just get the thing serviced at any trans shop and get on with ya life. They are simple to rebuild and rebuild kit assuming no hardware needs replacing is about $300. As they were used in every commodore model since VN you can find plenty of swap over second hand or reco's units for bugger all money.
Yeah I think I am over thinking it if I can get a reconditioned one pretty cheap then its probably not worth me even getting it checked out. But I think I will see how much it will cost to get it looked at by a proper transmission specialist and if it is a lot then I will deal with it if the transmission fails.
 
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